Opinion – “I was only following orders”


Climate Change Scientists have put us on a “war footing” as the climate conference in Doha that winds up this weekend confirmed that climate change is tracking well above the worst case scenarios developed less than a decade ago.

Among the impacts of sea level rise, drought and extreme weather, IPCC modeling predicts that  40 -70% of all species on the planet will become extinct as the average temperature increase exceeds 3.5 degrees. It is morally indefensible to continue down the current path.

Doha shows that it is insufficient for our corporate and political leaders to claim metaphorically that “they were only following orders” from their shareholders or party factional leaders. It is clear that all individuals including the institutional investor and the lowly backbencher must take personal responsibility for their actions and non-actions regarding our climate.

The keynote address from the IPCC chair Dr R.K. Pachauri, goes on to say fossil fuel energy use is responsible for 85% of anthropogenic  CO2 emissions produced annually.

Australia is a leading player in this regard. The miracle economy that proudly survived the global financial crisis by producing 35% of world coal exports is helping to take the planet toward the rocks at breakneck speed.

It is a tide that is difficult to turn. In a very short time our economy has been transformed to our detriment from a mixed economy to one increasingly dependent on the export of fossil fuels.

Individuals, community and church groups across the spectrum are telling our political players that they must come to a consensus to reduce carbon emissions wherever it has the power to do so.

The response from the NSW Government and the fossil fuels industry is to dig in, to deny responsibility and to expand an industry that is not in humanities best interests.  These people continue to plan to profit from a world that simply won’t exist in 30 years time.

Yet, the economics of prevention is more cost effective if we act now. There is opportunity to further reform our policy settings at many levels. In particular, subsidies to the fossil fuels industries are an inappropriate driver of investment activity when a country goes to war for its climate.

None of us are “bystanders” in this story. It is time for individuals from within government, industry and the public to come forward and to speak out. The shocking revelations exposed by ICAC show what happens when good men and women do nothing.

Unfortunately there is no likelihood of any significant binding agreements from the Doha conference. For good or for bad, the part played by Australia will come down to individuals. From the motivations of the opposition leader Tony Abbott to the deliberations of the NSW Planning Assessment Commissioners, the dice is being spun and we must play our roles to intervene, only then can good triumph in the end.